November 17, 2011

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Ground Lamb, and Kasseri

We have not been cooking much lately. In the new age of Choose Two, a home-cooked dinner seems to be getting the short end of the stick. And, as always, I have my plans about how I will overcome: saved online shopping lists, visual inspiration of quick weeknight meals. I’m still feeling my way. But a benefit of the Choose Two era is that I’m learning to let go of any associated guilt.

So with minimal cooking going on, coming back to the same recipe twice in two weeks feels all the more meaningful. This dinner was an out-of-the park triumph.

It’s a recipe that’s familiar in its bolognese-like construction, but with unique ingredient substitutes: lamb for ground beef, kasseri (a Greek sheep’s milk cheese) for Parmesan, cilantro for parsley. (And then there’s cumin and cinnamon, oh my!) The result is heaven: an unexpected, utterly surprising explosion of flavor. On a weeknight!

Is there a weeknight recipe you’ve stumbled upon lately that’s knocked your socks off? I need additions to my inspiration file!

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Ground Lamb, and Kasseri
adapted slightly from Bon Appétit

The second time I made this I didn’t have time to roast the squash, so I steamed it in the microwave until tender. Not as out-of-this-world delicious, but still great! Also, a smartie on Epicurious suggests using Pecorino Romano if you can’t find kasseri.

1 20-ounce package peeled, chopped butternut squash
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces ground lamb
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree (from 28-ounce can)
1 cup chicken broth or water
8 ounces multi-grain penne pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup grated kasseri cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Transfer squash to large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and brown around edges, using metal spatula to turn occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb and onions; sauté until lamb browns and onions soften, 7 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and next 3 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, then broth and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add lamb mixture, half of cilantro, and half of cheese; toss. Add reserved cooking liquid by 1/3 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and cheese.

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  • Cadi: I just re-stumbled on Braised Red Cabbage with Sausage and Apples this week that made me think ‘wow, that was way too easy, pretty healthy, and I should tell people about this!’ The nice thing about it is that it makes a ton, is really hearty and if you buy a whole head of red cabbage you can have it twice in a week for pennies! Here’s the recipe:

    As for Choosing Two it’s been life changing ~ this concept is the best I’ve come across in years. At the end of my ‘two’ I’ve told myself if I want to tackle one more I can, but if not, it’s OK. It will be there tomorrow.4 years ago

  • Cadi: …the funny thing about that recipe is that, when I thought I should go blog it, looked in my archives and I already had. Way ahead of myself! :)4 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: This looks AMAZING. Going on my weeknight recipe list.

    Soups are saving the day at our house lately – I’ve got a whole slew of ’em: And last night it was spinach-ricotta enchiladas: (We skip the sour cream.)4 years ago

  • Maria: Yes! Minus the cilantro, this looks like my Yia-Yia’s “kema” – a Greek peasant ragu of minced lamb that’s heavy on the allspice and cinnamon. So delicious.4 years ago

  • cristina: mmmm – i don’t normally think of ground lamb for weeknight dinners but this is gonna change my mind! i’m also dealing with guilt for not cooking up to my ‘usual standards’ every night – but it’s truly liberating to free up more time for some important things I’m focusing on! my strategy lately – especially now that it’s cooler – is making a big one-pot soup or stew that we don’t mind eating for a few days. lately it’s been a lentil-sausage-kale soup from rachael ray. i can’t stop making it once a week! rachael is a bit perky for my taste, but she knows easy italian comfort food! years ago

  • Priyanka: Great combination of flavor….the dish looks so inviting4 years ago

  • geek+nerd: Holy yum! That looks so delicious, thank you for sharing!4 years ago

  • Sara Rose: We’re on a curry kick lately. Curries left and right. But the go to simple dinner here, every week? Homaemade tomato sauce, with a can of cannelini beans, a can of tuna, some hot pasta, and plenty of parmesan. Takes the time it takes to cook the noodles. That dish looks so amazing. I need to find a substitute, lamb here is ridiculously, stupidly expensive, which is ridiculous because if you don’t farm cows or pigs here guess what? YOU RANCH GOATS AND SHEEP. What on earth? Where is that meat GOING? And why does a pack of two chops here cost me $29?4 years ago

  • Courtney: I am definitely going to have to try this dish soon! My new favorite weeknight recipe is an easy balsamic chicken dish – I4 years ago

  • jackie: sounds delicious.

    i made this dish with wheat berries instead of farro (they cook up in 15 mins) and baked tofu instead of feta (only because i didn’t have any) — it was super easy and addicting. years ago

  • Cordelia: Heidi Swanson’s Miso-Curry Delicata Squash. Delicious. You don’t even have to peel the squash!4 years ago

  • Cadi, I agree that Choose Two is kind of life-changing! And you’re right: if you do more than two, you feel like some kind of rock star.

    Sara Rose, What is with the crazy range of ground lamb prices? I’ve heard other people say that it is so, so expensive where they live but in my grocery store it costs the same as ground beef. Crazy!

    Am loving all of these dinner suggestions! Will get to bookmarking! Thanks, ladies!4 years ago

  • Adrienne: I really like this: and this: But, I’d say, never underestimate the power o grilled cheese and soup.

    I call mine a deluxe grilled cheese. I always use whole wheat bread, two slices of of different types of cheese and thinly sliced apple. Throw some spices in there and/or some ham and you’re good to go!4 years ago

  • Meg@thelegaltart: Love this twist on traditional mince and pasta!4 years ago

  • Rachel: I made this with a few substitutions (because of items I had on hand and needed to use up) I swapped venison for the lamb and pumpkin for the squash. I also omitted the cilantro because some eaters here don’t like it. Was a great success and especially helpful for the use of venison which I am new to but heard could be treated like lamb. Thanks!4 years ago

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